Democrat & Chronicle
Brooklyn Bridge art exhibit at RoCo
By Robin L. Flanigan
September 6, 2015
What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas when artist Liz Jaff had to stay in the same hotel there for a month for work. Not wanting to go out, she started messing around with the hotel stationery, and soon she was asking the maids not to clean her room anymore — but to bring more paper.
“I wanted to create something abstract, a memory, from the most ignored material in the room, and I wondered what would happen when I collapsed it into my suitcase and recreated this thing someplace else,” recalls Jaff, whose project ultimately spanned 25 feet by 8.5 feet. Paper since has become her primary medium.
Ten of her sculptural pieces that comprise “Plomb,” all made with thousands of pieces of hand-cut white paper, wire and lead, are part of Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s Brooklyn Bridge exhibition, running through Nov. 15.
The exhibition features five emerging New York City artists and is presented in connection with the Memorial Art Gallery and Brooklyn’s Robert Henry Contemporary art gallery. It features the delicate paintings and drawings of Shoshana Dentz; the monumental ballpoint pen drawings of Derek Lerner; the abstract, consumer culture-inspired work of Richard Garrison; and sculptures that pay homage to our fascination with celebrity from Norm Paris.
“Brooklyn Bridge is really a metaphor,” says RoCo’s executive director and curator Bleu Cease. “The works are not about Brooklyn or the Brooklyn Bridge, but about a connection to a particular location where a lot of art activity is happening.”
Brooklyn Bridge will continue as a biennial project, giving RoCo an opportunity to showcase other cities with booming art scenes.
In this inaugural exhibition, the artists all deal with themes of contrast: big and small, back and forth, inside and outside.
One of Paris’ pieces, for example, titled Crate For Sculpture of Earnest Byner, outlines an imaginary monument to the American football running back likely best remembered for “The Fumble” in 1987.
“Norm dedicates all this care and meticulous attention to creating a support structure to protect an imaginary sculpture,” says Cease. “It’s just so good and totally quirky.”
Lerner, with eight pieces in the show from two bodies of work, “Asvirus” and “Fractures,” finds inspiration from the organization and chaos of complex systems, and never sketches out his ideas first.
“I like to approach them in a visceral, natural, of-the-moment kind of way,” says Lerner, recently commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to create permanent public art for an entire Brooklyn subway station. “I make those marks and they’re there to stay. They’re not going anywhere and I have to deal with what happens. Sometimes that goes great, and other times it’s a fight that’s exciting and challenging and affects the end result of the work.”
For Jaff, who also has seven ink drawings in the exhibition, the surprise comes from generating art from material that gets routinely tossed out and easily forgotten.
“I do very deliberately play off of the conception that paper is ephemeral, which is why conceptually I picked it, but in a physical sense it’s the opposite,” she explains. “It can do a lot of very different things physically that can be structurally sound. I can get it to have a lot of staying power, and those are contrasts that harmonize beautifully together.”
Robin L. Flanigan is a freelance writer.